Flat new car registrations still better than expected

Posted on 6 Oct 2011 by The Manufacturer

The September plate-change saw 332,476 new cars registered in the UK, 0.8% down on last year, beating automotive group SMMT’s expectations.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) reports that the volume of new cars registered in the UK in the third quarter is down 0.7% on Q3 2010, with January to September volumes down 5% on a year ago.

The fall is lower than the car industry organisation expected. Private registrations were down a thumping 9.3%, while growth in fleet volumes picked up most of the decline.

“The all-important September market outperformed expectations and is less than 1% below last year at 332,476 units,” said Paul Everitt (pictured), SMMT chief executive.

SMMT expects the full year new car market to end 5.3% below 2010 levels at 1.92 million units.
Looking to 2012, Mr Everitt said: “SMMT has revised down its 2012 registrations forecast to 1.96 million units; a reflection of the continued weakness in UK domestic demand and the uncertainty across European economies. It is important that government acts to sustain an investment-led recovery and implements measures to encourage more private sector investment in R&D, skills, new plants and machinery.”

Average new car CO2 emissions fell by 4.0% to 138.5g/km.

“The immaterial decrease in new car sales for September 2011 confirms our predictions over the last few months that private and corporate buyers have reached a ‘tipping point’ where they can no longer hold off buying new cars,” said David Raistrick, UK manufacturing leader at Deloitte. “Undoubtedly, economic uncertainty is putting off some purchasers and levelling sales. I would expect cautious relief that the numbers have been generally retained at last year’s levels.”

Michael Gartside, Autofacts automotive analyst at PwC, endorsed the general analysis, but was slightly more bearish on new car sales for the full year. “While September was slightly better than we expected, we predict that demand will start to weaken noticeably in the final quarter and we therefore maintain our forecast of 1.9m units for the full year,” he said.
“Given the current economic climate we see little reason for optimism next year and forecast new car registrations of 1.9-1.95m units for 2012.”